COMMUNITY heroes who make Renfrewshire a better place to live have been honoured in the 2021 Provost’s Community Awards.

The annual ceremony was unable to take place this year due to ongoing Covid restrictions but local groups and volunteers have still been rewarded for their hard work.

More than 80 nominations were submitted by members of the public, with seven awards up for grabs.

Among those with something to celebrate are the team at Elderslie-based cancer support charity Rays of Hope, which won the Carers Award.

With their main building closed due to the pandemic, volunteers have kept in touch with members regularly via social media, collected shopping and prescriptions and offered help whenever needed.

The majority of activities had to be cancelled last year but members were encouraged to attend the charity’s walking group, which was increased to twice weekly.

Linda O’Malley, founder of Rays of Hope Cancer Support, said the team is “humbled” to have won the award.

“In today’s climate, there are so many people and groups worthy of receiving this award,” she told The Gazette. “Over the last year, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen people and communities come together like never before, apart from times of war, to help their fellow man.

“We have seen so many instances of love and care poured out from individuals and groups to the people of Renfrewshire and we are so proud to be part of this.”

Winner of the Arts and Culture Award was Calum Coutts, who is a teacher at Riverbrae School, in Linwood, which caters for pupils with additional support needs (ASN).

The Gazette: Riverbrae art teacher Calum CouttsRiverbrae art teacher Calum Coutts

As a qualified art teacher and professional actor, he has been exploring new ways of using digital technology to enhance classroom practice, learning and teaching.

Calum said: “Often, when working with young people and peers, there is an assumption that ‘the arts’ are only for people who can draw, paint or perform.

“However, when we start to explore more contemporary arts education such as image manipulation, photography, animations, film and video editing, it becomes far more accessible as a subject area.

“As an art teacher in ASN education, I am passionate about involving all learners using these multi-media techniques.

“It is a real honour to receive this award.”

There was more success for Riverbrae School when senior pupils Scott MacKinnon and Lewis Nicholson won the Sporting Achievement prize.

The Gazette: Riverbrae pupils Lewis Nicholson and Scott MacKinnonRiverbrae pupils Lewis Nicholson and Scott MacKinnon

In preparation for leaving school this year and as part of their sports coaching qualification, delivered by Renfrewshire School of Sport Education (RSSE), they have taken responsibility for encouraging fellow pupils, staff and the wider school community to get active.

Scott said: “It’s great to get this award and my family are really happy about this too.

“I worked hard and met new friends during the RSSE sessions. I want to keep doing sport when I leave school.”

Lewis said winning the award was “a big surprise.”

“I am really happy,” he added. “Chris Cleary, from RSSE, asked if we would like to become a sports coach and it has been hard but good.

“Meeting new people has been great and I enjoyed the lessons we gave at school.”

The Community Group Award was won by the Darkwood Crew – a team of volunteers based in the Ferguslie Park area of Paisley.

The Gazette: There was praise for the Darkwood CrewThere was praise for the Darkwood Crew

During the pandemic, the group has worked tirelessly to address food insecurity, fuel poverty, loneliness and mental health concerns by offering a delivery service for food and prescriptions for those who are shielding.

It has also staged innovative activities such as hosting a mobile Bingo Bus to bring the community together.

Winner of the Community Volunteer Award is Mike Dillon, who was nominated by St James Primary School, in Paisley.

The Gazette: Mike DillonMike Dillon

Mike, who is a former Lib Dem councillor and ran a busy record store in Paisley town centre for many years, has helped the school address issues of poverty experienced by pupils and their families, as well as providing opportunities for children to attend sports camps during holiday periods.

Employee of the Year went to Brian Wilson, who is a janitor at St Charles Primary, in Paisley, and is due to retire this month.

The Gazette: Brian Wilson, school janitor at St Charles Primary, was named Employee of the YearBrian Wilson, school janitor at St Charles Primary, was named Employee of the Year

On top of regular janitorial duties, Brian helps with the yearbook and annual show for primary seven pupils, working with the sound and lighting equipment, arranging soundtracks and capturing the performance on camera to ensure each youngster has a DVD as a memento.

Meanwhile, the Ingenuity in Business Award went to Gordon Kyle, of Paisley-based opticians Miller and McClure.

The Gazette: Gordon KyleGordon Kyle

During the initial lockdown, he examined a number of patients via telephone and video call, with his swift action and accuracy ensuring they received urgent eyecare for potentially sight-threatening problems.

Provost Lorraine Cameron said: “Over the past year, our communities have faced challenges unlike any they’ve experienced previously and it’s even more important that we pay tribute to those unsung heroes who have been a light in the darkness during these difficult times.

“These winners were all nominated by their own communities and I’m honoured to be able to reward them for their dedication and commitment.”